1) He’s too damn reasonable for the knuckle-dragging, right-wing GOP voters who in recent years have dominated first-round voting and;
2) He’s a Republican in a state where that brand has been poisoned by those same folks who think he’s too damn reasonable.
Sundheim’s no fool. He understands that his party’s popularity (down to 28% of registered voters) is pathetically weak.
But he seems to genuinely believe, “I can make a difference . . . Think what would it do to the Republican brand if I won.”
A noble cause. But to make the November ballot he’ll first have to beat out, not only the other Republicans in the race – former GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez—but also finish in the Top Two in the primary against Democrats, U.S. Rep Loretta Sanchez or Attorney General Kamala Harris.
GOP conundrum Here’s Duf’s challenge: While he’s an economic and foreign policy conservative (he opposed the Iran nuclear deal, for example), he’s essentially pro-gay marriage, favors a pathway to legality for undocumented immigrants, opposes further offshore oil drilling, takes a libertarian stance on abortion rights and wouldn’t shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood and, perhaps most politically perilous of all, believes – gasp – in actually governing.
“I’m a man of principle,” he told Calbuzz in an interview last week. “And one of my principles is principled compromise.” You don’t set out to compromise, he said. But compromise is not capitulation. He wouldn’t immediately repeal Obamacare, for example, but he’d like to replace it with a system based on medical care, not medical insurance controlled by Washington.
His biggest concern is that the economic system is not working for average, working Americans – “people with full-time jobs, stagnant wages and rising costs” who are being squeezed by a system that doesn’t work for them.
He’d like to resurrect the community bank system, make it easier for small businesses to depreciate capital equipment and “encourage job growth in the U.S.” (although exactly how he’d do that is still rather fuzzy). Of one thing he’s certain: “The middle class is being hollowed out.” And he’d be dedicated to reversing that.
He says he’s for clean air and water, but he also argues that some environmental regulations go too far (like EPA regulations on truck emissions, for example) and that the feds could do more to help streamline development of manufacturing plants and keep gasoline taxes from overwhelming small businesses.
How about the Donald? Calbuzz asked him if he’d be comfortable running as a Republican with Donald Trump as the GOP nominee for president. He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no. “I think he’s tapped into something that’s a major reason why I’m running – a current of anger and angst people have because they’re not being listened to.”
On the other hand, the GOP contenders he’s most comfortable with, he told us, are Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Marco Rubio. He also thinks Carly Fiorina is doing an excellent job of making her case (although his politics seem far less right-wing than hers).
Although stopping short of calling himself pro-choice — he takes a libertarian position on abortion rights, he said — he wouldn’t try to overturn Roe v Wade. Nor would he send ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS (although he adds the boilerplate that he “wouldn’t take anything off the table”).
On immigration, he says he wouldn’t try to round up and deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here (except felons, who he would expel), but instead would like to see a system where they can win legal resident status.
Seeking common ground. Sundheim disagrees with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on many issues, but says she’s the kind of bi-partisan, deliberative senator he’d want to be – someone who seeks to find solutions. His favorite U.S. Supreme Court justices are Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito (and he liked Sandra Day O’Connor).
He’s a supporter of religious freedom but thinks Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis had an obligation to follow the law and issue marriage licenses. “The job has to be done. Gay marriage is legal and it’s up to the state to issue licenses.”
Sundheim has barely gotten his campaign off the ground and doesn’t have real staff yet, but he says he’s received informal advice from Bob White, Marty Wilson and Jeff Randle – three smart, moderate Republicans. Not a bad trio in the Calbuzz playbook.
Bottom Line: Duf Sundheim is a thinking person’s Republican. We’re just not sure there’s a thinking person’s party out there on his side of the aisle.